Jule Romans is the author of "Take Advice from Shakespeare" and other books. She has over 30 years of experience in the field of education.
The Magician, the Lovers, and the Villains
In this story, you will meet the following characters:
Prospero, Duke of Milan- A magician who is marooned on an enchanted island
Miranda- Prospero’s daughter, marooned along with Prospero. Has not seen any human beings except for her father since she was less than three years old.
Sycorax (deceased)- The original enchantress of the island. An evil witch who imprisoned Ariel, Caliban, and other helpless souls. Sycorax has already died before the play begins, but her enchantments continue to influence the story
Ariel- Prospero’s faithful sprite-servant, freed by Prospero from the evil spell cast by Sycorax
Caliban- a monster still under enchantment, often tormented by Ariel
Antonio- Prospero’s villainous brother, responsible for sending Prospero and Miranda out to sea and attempting to have them killed. Later found on a ship in the sea that Prospero causes to wreck in a storm
Alonso, King of Naples- Antonio’s co-conspirator who forced baby Miranda and Prospero into a small boat and set them in the sea to die. Also aboard the ship that Prospero destroys.
Gonzalo- A loyal courtier who helped Prospero and Miranda survive by filling their small boat with food and books, keeping them alive until they washed up on Sycorax’s enchanted island. Later is found aboard the same ship that is wrecked by Prospero’s storm and washes up on the island where Miranda and Prospero are residing.
Sebastian- Alonso’s brother, on the tempest-tossed ship with Antonio and Alonso
Ferdinand- Handsome young son of Alonso, also on the storm-wrecked ship. He is washed up on the island, and is seen by Miranda.
From these descriptions, you can perhaps guess at the story that is to come.
Prospero is Betrayed
Prospero was the Duke of Milan. He was a scholar and a deep learner of magic.
Prospero preferred to study his books and remain in his private dwellings rather than rule Milan. As a scholar, Prospero left the leadership of his dukedom to his trusted brother Antonio. Antonio was disloyal to his innocent brother Prospero.
Wanting the riches and power all to himself, Antonio plotted to kill Prospero and take everything.
An Evil Plot
Antonio’s plan nearly succeeded. Antonio allied himself with a fellow ruler, Alonso the King of Naples. Together, Antonio and Alonso put Prospero into a large ship and took him out to sea. Prospero had a vulnerable baby daughter, and she was forced to suffer along with him.
Antonio and Alonso took Miranda and Prospero far out into the ocean, away from all land or safety. They then pushed Prospero and Miranda into a tiny boat that had no capacity to withstand the waves, and no means of survival.
Alonso and Antonio sailed away, leaving poor Prospero and Miranda to die.
Antonio seized control of Milan, wore the Duke’s crown, and enjoyed all the honor, power, and wealth that came with the title. Alonso, King of Naples, remained close to his ally and the two men kept their secret while enjoying the spoils of their villainy.
A Loyal Friend
Poor Miranda was less than three years old, and Prospero would have found it completely impossible to protect her or save himself.
But all was not lost after all.
Tragedy was avoided because of the love of Prospero’s loyal subject, Lord Gonzalo. Unknown to the villains, Gonzalo had hidden water, provisions, clothing, and Prospero’s favorite books inside the small boat. These kept Prospero and little Miranda alive until their small craft somehow managed to cast up on an island in the middle of the sea. The two were saved, and although they were lost, they found much to support them.
The Enchanted Island
The island they landed on was enchanted. It had been under the control of a witch named Sycorax. Sycorax had imprisoned many good spirits inside the trunks of trees all over the island. Sycorax had a son named Caliban who was an ugly, miserable monster who was as vicious as he was brutal.
When Prospero and Miranda landed on the island, Sycorax was already deceased but her son Caliban was still alive, and the souls she had imprisoned were still trapped in the trees.
This was the island that Prospero and Miranda came to live upon, and it was perfect for them.
Prospero the Magician
Prospero, because of his earlier studies, had become a great magician. Now in exile, he had with him his precious daughter and favorite books. He was able to become the ruler of this island and undo some of the damage done by the evil witch Sycorax. Now that Sycorax was dead, the souls imprisoned in the tree could be set free.
Prospero’s magical knowledge allowed him to do this. He freed the spirits, but kept them all as his subjects, for they were obedient to his will out of love and gratitude. Prospero treated them all kindly.
One spirit in particular, Ariel, became Prospero’s personal assistant and companion. Ariel had been the chief of the imprisoned spirits, and now he was Prospero’s leading asset. Caliban, the orphaned son of Sycorax, was not so agreeable. Caliban remained hideous in looks and behavior, and often required strong discipline from Prospero. This was sad for Caliban, but necessary to keep the island in order.
Years Later, Revenge Is Possible
Years passed, and Miranda grew up in the company of these spirits. For her whole life, she never saw another human being aside from her father. Miranda was, of course, very beautiful and kind. She was everything a good maiden should be.
One day, Prospero became aware that his old enemies were out at sea in another great ship. By his art, he could see Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan and Alonso, the King of Naples. On the ship with them were also Gonzalo, Sebastian, and Ferdinand. Gonzalo was Prospero’s old faithful lord. Sebastian was the brother of Alonso, and Prince Ferdinand was his son.
Prospero used his magical powers to raise a great storm that tossed the ship and brought it near his island.
While Prospero was calling up the storm, he also revealed the ship to Miranda. Showing her a vision of the ship struggling in the waves, Prospero explained that it was filled with men who were just like them. Miranda, having never seen other human beings, was enthralled and moved with compassion. She pleased with her father to spare the lives of these men and quell his storm. Prospero reassured Miranda that he intended not only to save them, but to bring the safely ashore.
It was then that Prospero told Miranda the true story of their existence on the island. He also explained that the ship contained the very enemies who had tried to kill them so many years ago. But he had no intention of bloody revenge. He simply wanted his enemies to be delivered into his hands, and had raised the storm to accomplish this purpose. As he finished his story, Prospero used his magic to charm Miranda to sleep.
Prospero Commands with Magic
Calling Ariel, Prospero commanded the sprite to help him with the ship and its men. Ariel had certain capabilities that would be useful to save the men and bring them to shore. Ariel sometimes resented Prospero, and in this case, Ariel grumbled at the possibility of the task. Prospero responded with a threatening reminder of all the sad sufferings Ariel has endured at the hands of the deceased with Sycorax. Prospero reminded Ariel of the debt of gratitude owed for being freed from Sycorax’s spells. Ariel finally stopped complaining, and promised to carry out Prospero’s wishes. Prospero promises Ariel that he will free him from all indebtedness in two days’ time, if Ariel carries out his wishes.
In the midst of the storm, Prince Ferdinand leapt from the ship into the sea, and all presumed him to be drowned. The rest of the ship’s inhabitants were washed overboard. The ship was believed to be destroyed.
Prince Ferdinand Is Saved
But since this was all magic of Prospero’s making, unexpected things occurred. Ariel flew out to sea in the form of a water nymph. Ariel carried Ferdinand safely to shore on the island. The ship was also saved by Ariel, and harbored safely on another part of the island shore. Antonio, Sebastian and Alonso landed unhurt in yet another location on the same island. Thus, the crew, inhabitants, and ship were all separated by Prospero’s magic and Ariel’s assistance.
Ariel, then, sought out Ferdinand who was all alone on shore. Making himself invisible, Ariel lured Ferdinand toward Prospero by using an enchanted song. Ferdinand was spellbound by Ariel’s singing and followed the sprite across the sands, eventually coming into the presence of Miranda and Prospero.
The Lovers: Ferdinand and Miranda
Miranda had been awakened at just the right moment. Now she could see young Ferdinand in front of her. Miranda had never seen any other human being except for her father. As soon as she looked at Ferdinand, she fell instantly in love with him.
She exclaimed “I might call him a thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so noble!”
Ferdinand likewise was enchanted. He felt wonder and delight at Miranda’s beauty. He did not even try to hide his passion. As the two young people talked, Ferdinand vowed to Miranda that he would make her his Queen, if only she would agree to marry him.
Prospero Commands Ferdinand
Prospero had his own plans for this betrothal. Although he was secretly delighted with the situation, Prospero pretended to be angry with Ferdinand. Ferdinand threatened Ferdinand with strong words. “You come here as a spy! I will manacle your neck and feet together, and you shall feed on fresh water mussels, withered roots and husk, and have sea-water to drink.”
Ferdinand refused and stood firm against Prospero’s wrath. Ferdinand drew his sword to fight. At that very moment, Prospero used his magic to cast a charm, and Ferdinand was stopped in his tracks. Miranda begged for mercy, but Prospero refused.
Prospero compelled Ferdinand to follow him and do his bidding. Prince Ferdinand was set to work clearing logs and timber and stacking them neatly. It was hard physical work, but Ferdinand obeyed and continued patiently.
Prospero Blesses Ferdinand and Miranda
Miranda had sweet sympathy for Ferdinand, and would have helped him with his work. Ferdinand would not allow it. Ferdinand spoke his love to her again, and Miranda was deeply happy to hear it. She promised to be his wife.
Prospero, after this, released Ferdinand from his spell and servitude. Prospero happily consented to the betrothal, saying “Take her, she is thine own.”
The Villains Plot Again
On another part of the island, Antonio and Sebastian were plotting murder. Believing that Ferdinand had died in she shipwreck, the two men planned to murder Alonso the King of Naples. According to their plans, Sebastian would gain the throne as soon as Alonso was dead. They intended to murder Alonso in his sleep.
Another Magical Rescue
Now, Ariel the Sprite did many good deeds to protect Alonso and torment the two evildoers, Antonio and Sebastian. Ariel woke Alonso well before they could carry out their plan. But that was not all Ariel did.
Ariel played tricks on Antonio and Sebastian. At one moment, Ariel produced and enchanted buffet in front of the two men. At the next moment, he took it away dramatically. Ariel appeared to the two men in the form of a harpy amidst of thunder and lightning, and make the banquet disappear. Ariel scolded them for their wrongdoings and then disappeared dramatically. Both villains were greatly affected by this display.
The Final Confrontation
Now, the great moment of transformation was near. Prospero used enchantments do draw everyone to the grove of small trees near his cave. They all waited, trembling, bitterly regretting their actions and very afraid.
Prospero decided to use his magic one last time. And then, he swore to give it up forever, vowing to break his magic staff in two and drown his book of magic. But first, he would do one last grand illusion.
So, Prospero created music in the air, and appeared to all of them in his proper shape as the Duke of Milan. The onlookers were much moved, and instantly asked for forgiveness for all their wrong deeds. Prospero chose to forgive them, telling them the story of his adventures and life on the island.
Alonso was the sorriest of all, begging Prospero’s forgiveness and lamenting the loss of his own son Ferdinand. At that moment, Prospero pulled aside the curtain to his dwelling and revealed Ferdinand, very much alive, playing chess with Miranda. Alonso was overjoyed to greet his son again.
A Happy Ending
Everything ended happily for all. The ship was safe, and next day they all set sail for Naples. Ferdinand and Miranda were to be married, and all would celebrate. Ariel gave them calm seas for travel and everyone celebrated. Prospero was welcomed back to his dukedom. His subject had not forgotten him and greeted him with great joy.
True to his vow, Prospero no longer practiced his magic. His life was happy, and his forgiveness of his foes gave him even more happiness and grace.
Ariel was freed from his servitude, and the sprite travelled freely, always singing his happy song “Merrily, merrily, shall I live now, under the blossom that hangs on the bough.”
Nesbit, E. Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. 1907.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Jule Romans